AGST has turned 28 this year. We look back with gratitude to the Asia Theological Association (ATA) for forming AGST as its educational arm. In a meeting at Taipei in December 1983, ATA under the leadership of Dr. Bong Rin Ro decided to establish its own postgraduate theological school. This is in response to the need to “train Asians in Asia.” ATA envisioned seminaries in countries like Korea, Japan, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Singapore to jointly offer postgraduate degree programs in Theology, Bible, Missiology, and Christian Education. Specifically, AGST was established “to supply teachers for theological schools, to curtail the ‘brain drain’ to the West, to provide economical training for Asians and to encourage cultural adaptation of theological education.”1
The leaders of seminaries in the Philippines pursued this vision. In January 1984, a consultation among seminary presidents and deans was held to discuss the agenda of forming the AGST Philippines. Initially five seminaries showed interest. In that meeting, Dr. Rodrigo Tano represented ATA as a member of its executive committee. In April 1984, Dr. Bong Rin Ro visited the Philippines and met with representatives of interested schools.2
On June 21-22, 1984, nineteen delegates from fifteen seminaries in seven Asian countries met together in Hongkong to establish the AGST.3 Dr. Bong Rin Ro was appointed as AGST Dean and Dr. Tano, the Philippine Area Dean.4 First to be offered was the Doctoral Program in Religious Education (now Doctor of Education). From 1985 to 1986, the area committee consisting of leaders from participating institutions joined hands to develop the curriculum and library resources, enlist faculty, and recruit students from all over Asia. In June 1987, the program formally started. From this batch, we had eleven graduates from the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, New Zealand, and the U.S.A.5
Today AGST Philippines has nine member schools namely, Alliance Graduate School (formerly Alliance Biblical Seminary), Asia Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary, Asia Pacific Theological Seminary (formerly Far East Advanced School of Theology), Asian Seminary of Christian Ministries, Asian Theological Seminary, Biblical Seminary of the Philippines, International Graduate School of Leadership (formerly International School of Theology-Asia), Koinonia Theological Seminary, and Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The presidents of these seminaries sit in the AGST Board while the academic deans along with the program directors compose the Administrative Committee, chaired by the AGST Dean. These seminaries support the AGST by paying for membership fees, hosting a specific program, allowing their faculty to teach in AGST, and sharing their library resources, facilities, and support staff. “The Asia Graduate School of Theology-Philippines is a sterling example of cooperation among evangelical groups.”6
The AGST Philippines continues to develop relevant programs to address various needs in Asia. It offers Th.M.-Ph.D. in Biblical Studies, Theological Studies, and Church History; Doctor of Education (with concentrations in Educational Leadership, Adult and Continuing Education, and Counseling); Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies, Doctor of Missiology; Ph.D. in Holistic Child Development, Ph.D. and D. Min in Peace Studies. Some of these programs are recognized by the Philippine government through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). It will soon launch a Ph.D. in Holistic Child Development. AGST also has its own publication, the Journal of Asian Mission (JAM). Currently, the students come from Korea, Myanmar, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, U.S.A., and Zambia. Our graduates are serving as seminary presidents, academic deans, faculty members, leaders of denominations and para-church organizations, pastors and missionaries all over Asia and beyond.
As one of the graduates, I am grateful to the AGST Philippines for equipping me for my ministry in theological education. Now, I have the privilege to serve both, the AGST and the ATA. Thanks to all pioneering men and women who laid the foundation for the AGST Philippines. Thanks to the efforts of the previous Deans namely, Dr. Rodrigo Tano, Dr. James De Young, Dr. Lee Wanak, and Dr. Junias Venugopal. And thanks to the leaders and faculty of the participating seminaries for their continuing commitment to the consortium. Though they come from various theological persuasions, they have chosen to focus on what unite them and to work together to build God’s kingdom.
Twenty-eight years ago, ATA had a dream. Now, we have not only AGST Philippines but AGST Japan, and AGST Alliance (Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia). Indeed, God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). To God be the glory!
2 For detailed account on the formation of AGST Philippines, see Cunningham, F. Laying the Foundation for the Asia Graduate School of Theology-Philippines (2004, Unpublished Paper), p. 4.
4 Cunningham, F. Laying the Foundation for the Asia Graduate School of Theology-Philippines (2004, Unpublished Paper). pp. 5-6.
6 Cunningham, F. Laying the Foundation for the Asia Graduate School of Theology-Philippines(2004, Unpublished Paper), p. 1.
Dr. Theresa R. Lua, Former Dean
ASIA GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY